Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cook, Wellfield Road, Cardiff Review

What do you get if you cross Iceland, Marks & Spencer and Lush Cosmetics?

It would probably be something a bit like Cook. This independent chain of around 55 shops sells posh and slightly expensive (Marks & Spencers) frozen ready meals (Iceland) which tell you on the packet which individual chef has prepared your meal (Lush).

It's all rather clever as far as business models are concerned. With frozen food there's far less wastage compared to fresh so franchisees aren't counting their weekly losses due to spoilage.

The glamour of freezer food shopping was helped by a friendly shop assistant who offered us help and a free taster of some rather nice chocolate brownie. Also the gingham fabric covering each freezer softened the harsh reality of each white juggernaut.

Cook have a range of ready meals for 1, 2, families and larger parties. It's all the kind of stuff that you could pass off as home cooking if you're so inclined (as long as your dinner guests don't also shop at Cook!). We were catering for 3 people but in reality our dishes would have easily served 4. The bill came to £26 but our mains were at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Also all our food cooked from frozen in around an hour but Cook sell some dishes which you do have to defrost.

A gold great taste award 2011 winning Coq au Vin (£7.50) was superb. Moist chicken was coated in a rich sauce of red wine, butter, brandy, redcurrant jelly, garlic, thyme, bay and other ingredients. A generous amount of bacon, mushrooms and onions bobbed amongst the sauce. A chicken, ham and leek pie (£6.99) was packed with tons of meat and leeks enrobed in a lovely white wine and parsley sauce. The shortcrust pastry topping too was excellent.

Sides were less impressive but still delicious. Dauphinoise potatoes (£2.99) were seriously creamy but could have done with a much bigger hit of cheese. Equally the cabbage with smoked bacon and toasted pinenuts (£3.95) worked well but didn't need the annoyance of aniseed brought by a scattering of caraway seeds.

Desserts were tasty but unremarkable (I've had better frozen desserts from Tesco). A chocolate and toffee cheesecake (£2.50) did exactly what it said on the pack. The base was commendably crisp and the sharpness of cream cheese tempered the richness of the chocolate and toffee. The banoffee pie however had a little too much cream, not enough banoffee and the biscuit base lacked a bit of bite.

Cook is a fine addition to the school of lazy, tasty 'cooking'. Thankfully there are no prawn rings or D-list celeb ad campaigns in sight.

The Details:
Cook, Wellfield Road, 18 Wellfield Road, Cardiff, CF24 3PB
Telephone: 029 2049 4166


  1. Maybe the gratin Dauphinoise lacked a cheese hit because it is made with just potatoes, cream and garlic? You were probably thinking of gratin savoyard.

  2. How right you are! However Cook's interpretation of Dauphinoise claims the potatoes are cooked in a creamy mature cheddar sauce. This was certainly lacking.

  3. Cheddar would seem really wrong. Gratin Savoyard would be made with Beaufort cheese, or Gruyere.